The freight train blasted on through the icey cold tundra – a wastland containing nothing more than a few hardy beasts covered in matted hair just eeking out their frozen existence. Out here everything grew hair it was a requirement. Everything except for the train was insulated by a fibrous exterior. The train didnt need one it was mechanical kept alive by the furious energy that came from a furnace full of fuel and a hardy crew that feed it regularly.
Smoke billowed out as this mechanical beast ploughed on through otherwise impassable icey extremes. One of its passenger’s safe inside its cokooned belly read aloud the chapter and verse which seemed to resonate with the journey he was now undertaking. His name was Lord Astley and being a Lord was indeed entitled to priveledges only a fortune could supply which out here was enough to prevent certain mortalitys should they have arisen. To this end he had taken up hiring gentlemen of considerable means in this regard. However, where they were going seemed more to set unease in the most experienced of members of his team.
Hatchet-men, gun-slingers, and retired assasins where but a few of those chosen for the job all paid in advance, all promised a considerable sum on completion of the task that lay ahead and that still remained in essence a mystery even to Astly – who was at best following a guide written in a language far from that of anything modern or descernable to the layman. Astly had deciphed this language after comparing the extracts from engravings taken from various artifacts. The recovery of said artifacts had been a task in of itself, presenting all manner of obstacles which Astly thus far had only to hear about rather than be involved. This time it required that he himself be there to conduct proceedings in person. The chant’s and rites of ceremonial passages where only understood by him and one other – a Doctor Layton, who was also accompanying Lord Astly albeit against his will.
Layton was sleeping peacefully in the next carriage over. His mind a whirling dreamscape of symbols and meanings with visions of the past which any true historian must aspire to have and guide his own scientific endevours no matter how precise. And Layton was precise and very meticulous, but night after night of being obsessed with each artifact his mind had begun to imagine more fully the reality behind each symbol and its meaning. The prayers and incantations that could not be seperated by their practise in a time that began calling to him – more especially now that he had been drugged by Astly’s right hand man Hains.
Hains was a broad shouldered thick set powerfull man who didnt lack good reason and unlike others of his kind and wasnt purely motivated by money and violence. Astly had selected him because of this and knew that he could be trusted. A longtime employee of Astly Hains had always managed to handle even the most difficult problems with a certain delicacy, and charactor. No doubt Hains was often far more the gentlemen than his master despite having been schooled altogether differently. A spell aboard the prison ship Artemous was enough to nearly break him until he met his confident and ally George Drummel – the simpler minded and yet useful in any situation – no matter what the odd’s Drummel could be counted on to take orders and carry them out without thinking. Drummel and Hains had escaped the Artemous late on christmass eve killing several gaurds during a night of storms which would have drowned the souls of any that would dare to go to sea. But it was well in hand, so the story goes they both landed ashore wearing barely a stitch and covered from head to toe in grease – the only way to leave Artemous was through the underwater passages that eventually led to open waters. But to reach them you needed to crawl through a length of piping barely the width of a man. They made it only to be thrown from their vessel in the midst of a great storm. Which as luck would have it brought them to the shore of an island populated by pirates and their descendants. After a while they left the island with one other. A native of the island who had a peculiar obsession with fire arms and would never leave the side of Hain’s after he lost a fight and nearly perished a few nights after the storm if it hadnt been for Hain’s.
Hains had stepped in and saved the young man Jacob, from being murdered by his own kind and the three of them left to find their fortune in Australasia. Here they met and began working for Astly who had already found many of the artifacts that led this dangerous group of men to the furthest most inhospitable location in Russia – the siberian wasteland.
The train connected the frozen steps with the barbarious mongolian plains inbetween where the vast mountainous ranges of kurgestan and the northern himalyas. Beyond the icey steps lay more mountains to the east of Prussia and it was here buried between two carved side’s to these mountains that a vast network of tunnels had been uncovered thought to have been the last resting place of Alexander the Great who was said to have met his end when overwhelmed by a race of people as yet unknown to the modern historian but thought to have dwelled among these many caverns inside the mountain’s that to all outsiders would bare little life except the cold extremes of snow and ice. It was these mountain passes that lay out of the way of ordinary travellers that we find marked as the desitanation of each traveller who will know no hardship greater than the journey they will take to get there.
Shortly we join the travellers as they disembark from the train, it having reached it’s nearest desitination before descending into the plains of kurgestan and then onto mongolia finally arriving in northern china. But this wasnt the goal of this group, no they were not following the tourist route.
As the train unloaded its cargoe, Hains blew hot air into his hands which seemed to freeze in midair so he clasped them tight beneath his folded arms, he looked up at the sign beside the make shift station it read Gutter-rind. He looked out beyond the station and could see one of two wooden huts with the faint glow of burning pine wood and smoked fish. On the other side a vast frozen lake disapeared into a fog ofset by the sky and a vast range of icey mountains, the sky was black as night and seemed to contain hardly any stars. Perhaps it was the altitude he mused.
Astly was commanding the remaining two of his employee’s to carry with care the cases containing Dr Layton who was still under the effects of Hain’s drug induced sleep. Hains watched them drag Laytons casket onto the station. Jacob and Drummel then returned to the train and dragged various boxes out and onto the tracks all of which contained important mechanical parts that would aid them in their quest.
As night drew near the group decided to leave unpacking until the morning and as the train began to leave the station the four men with Drummel carrying Dr layton entered one of the wooden huts enquiring after lodgings with a women of east asian appearance. Astley introduced himself and quickly engratiated the women with a few gold coins. They slept uneasily. Dr layton woke to find himselve lying in a half-opened casket surounded by smoked fish, the smell was overwhelming and quite unexpected as the last memory he had was of going to sleep in his house in a quiet reserved part of london .
Hains awoke first and was sat outside on a kind of makeshift wooden veranda smoking a damp cigarrete. This place was unconfortable, the others joined him, and they all watched the Doctor wander about the town which consisted of 3 wooden huts until he came to their’s.
‘Excuse me I hop you dont mind but could you tell me where we are?’ the doctor volunteered. ‘No speaking english sorry’ Hains joked. They all sniggered. As they watched the poor doctor wander off to another hut to try and descern their native toungue.
It took him a good half hour to get a converstation going using bits of russian, eventually he gave up and accepted the kind offering of some smoked fish. Astley had some sweet tasting liquour which he offered around the group waited for them to finish smoking and then. Got them all to work opening the crates.
‘Here are the instructions Hain’s now make sure you get everything connected or we wont be going anywhere. And
where is that dear doctor?’
Astly looked about and noticed the doctor in one of the huts still chatting away with his pigeon russian with an older women and her son. He wore a animal hyde over his shoulders and almost looked like another native if it wasnt for the unmistakable glint of silver rimmed spectacles that gave him away.
The doctor brushed some snow from his whispy dark hair and turned to look in the direction of Astley. ‘Oh no’ He caught himself, and suddenly wondered where he could go to escape him. Astley smiled and paced over towards him, shouting ‘My dear doctor what a nice surprise, I rather hoped we might meet again. But here of all places what good fortune that I might indulge you in my academic musings.’
‘How is this possible’
‘Sodium pentathol and err, dont worry the effects dont last and you have been well looked after. You really dont have any choice at this stage so listen.Right now my men are building a conveyance that will take use to the entrance to the caves of the late greate Alexandra. Hitherto unexplored but yet hinted to throughout these writings which we have both studied. Giving light to it’s exact location with your help I hope to resurrect certain shall we say spirits on our journey, and I need you as the only other person to have understood the ancient language of these people.’
The doctor was surprisingly compliant and seemed slightly interested in Astleys goals rather than being more interested in leaving and returning to his home in london the effects of Hains drugs where quite remarkable. Hains hadnt just used drugs but a certain amount of mind control had removed a large part of the doctors own will.
He still resisted its control and managed to utter a few words, “I won’t.”
Astley replied, ‘You have no choice you see we have a second casket containing someone I think you’d really like to meet’ Astley pointed to the second casket that contained a small boy – well known to the doctor.
‘A child – how could you. You fiend you’ll never get away with this’
The small boy awoke to the sounds of the two arguing. ‘Hains look after the boy’. ‘Here’, Hains gave the boy some dried fish.
‘We are all going on a holiday announced Astley and you are to be quite and respectful at all times or else. Drummel please, do show them both what I mean’
The boy though barely eleven understood as Jacob’s eyes narrowed down the shaft of his revolver aimed directly at the doctor. ‘No funny business or else’ Jacob fired a shot which grazed the doctor. Then drew the firearm towards the boy, ‘Or it’s bye bye’.
‘Ok, ‘ quivered the doctor wiping blood from his ear.
Before the doctor had woken Jacob, Drummel and Hains had been working from first light on the contraption.
Similar to the train it feed on wood and made steam to operate track’s like a tank that would convey them through the snowy wastes towards the mountains and through them also. With giant hooks the machin could pull itself over any terrain. ‘Magnificient’ announced Astley.
‘It has another secret it can create holes in the earth, all underpower of steam, so to that which canot be ascended we can tunnel through’
‘I am impressed, please tell me who is the creator’, asked the doctor
‘Well man it was the work of many finding inspiration from others including Da Vinci himself’
‘But that is of no consequence what is of importance is location, doctor please help me to understand these writings and your rewards shall be plenty’
‘What I do I do for the innocence of this child, you must be insane’
‘I understand doctor but please will you examine these maps and explain the meanings of these symbols and here this text. Please it is crucial to our voyage and our safe return’
The doctor could see that Astley was a driven man perhaps to madness but as yet he was completly sain and close enough to understanding the symbols and their meaning’s that the doctor with the best interests of the boy felt obliged to help Astley to see the truth and accept that the quest would despite his desires to re-enact the past would not result in resurrecting anything more than the doctors own fascination with the past.